Lent Week Two: Criminalizing the Hungry
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
Thieves are not despised who steal only
to satisfy their appetite when they are hungry. ~ Proverbs 6:30
Now bring me prisoner 24601
Your time is up
And your parole's begun
You know what that means.
Yes, it means I'm free.
It means you get
Your yellow ticket-of-leave
You are a thief
I stole a loaf of bread.
You robbed a house.
I broke a window pane.
My sister's child was close to death
And we were starving.
You will starve again
Unless you learn the meaning of the law.
I know the meaning of those 19 years.
A slave of the law. ~ "Work Song" ~ Les Misérables musical (Schönberg, Boublil, Natel, Kretzmer)
Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals. It is based on the great Victor Hugo novel of the same name: a story of a man, Jean Valjean, who is imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his niece. In the story, Valjean escapes a harsh parole, and spends the rest of his life hounded by the policeman, Inspector Javert.
It is a story of redemption and forgiveness, but also a story about injustice. It shows how the poor and the hungry are trapped in an endless cycle of poverty that they cannot escape from.
Those who are poor and hungry often get judged - blamed for their own situation. Their punishments for stealing to save their lives or the lives of their family members often brings them the same sentence as one who steals for selfish gain. Perhaps not as often in the US, but in other places in the world, cruel, harsh sentences are still meted out.
The wisdom of our faith demands compassion for those who are willing to do what they feel they must to put food in the bellies of those they love.
Why do people steal? Maybe just asking that question is a good place to begin.
Questions for thought: Have you ever known someone desperate to feed their families? What lengths do you think you would go to take care of those you loved if you suffered from food insecurity? Check out the website "Amnesty International" and see what kinds of crimes in the world have unjust punishments.
Pray: Ask God to give you compassion to those who are desperate and hungry.